Baseball Predictions: Thaaaa Yankees Win!

And this past winter, while the big headlines revolved around the signings of Damon and Farnsworth, the most important Yankees news really had nothing to do with players -- whether they were new, old or engraved on a monument in left field.

No, the biggest story was Steinbrenner's decision to make peace with manager Joe Torre and to give GM Brian Cashman not just a new contract but more control over the direction of the operation.

There is monstrous significance to those developments for many reasons. But one of them is that Cashman is trying hard to steer the Yankees away from the mind-set that clubs should be put together like a giant fantasy team.

So Cashman, realist that he is, is not a man who is particularly thrilled with those suggestions that five straight parade-free years in the Bronx is a crime that ought to result in everyone responsible being deported to Chechnya.

"I get a little insulted when people say, 'It's been five years,'" Cashman says. "You know, it's not easy to win a World Series. It's impossible [to win it every year]. The odds of that aren't good.

"I hear people talk about our payroll and that's why we should win. Well, if that was true, then we would have had 100 world championships already, because we've probably led in payroll for 100 straight years. So that's why I get insulted by that talk, because we respect the game way too much to have that attitude."

There aren't many people left anymore, you realize, who were part of all four recent Yankees title teams, oh those many years ago (1996, '98, '99 and 2000).

The GM was there in '96 (although as an assistant GM). The manager hasn't changed. But Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams are the only players who have been around for the last decade. And now, with the exit of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, even the coaching staff has been 100 percent turned over.

So this year's coaches include four former big league managers (Larry Bowa, Tony Pena, Lee Mazzilli, Joe Kerrigan), plus two living Yankees legends (Don Mattingly and Ron Guidry). That staff has spent this spring refocusing this group's attention on the little things (execution, base running, preparation, etc.). What a concept.

"Maybe we took a little of that stuff for granted here -- but not this spring," Cashman says.

"To win, you have to be able to do the little things," Jeter says. "One thing that bothers me a lot about baseball and how it's gone today is ... you turn on the TV every night to watch the highlights, and all you get is home runs. But when you get to the postseason, there are not too many home run hitting contests."

Of course, the 1996-2000 Yankees didn't just practice the little things. They worshiped the little things. It remains to be seen how much this star-studded roster can ever resemble that one. But we still didn't see one team this spring any better than these Yankees. Not one.

So why do we think they'll win it all? Here's why:

1. More sanity

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